Leadership Development – Are You an Enabler or the Enabled?

by Wayne Sharer

International speaker, author, and entrepreneur. Retired navy officer, former commanding officer. Over 35 years of leading, coaching, mentoring, and speaking.

December 26, 2018

Do you feel enabled?

Or possibly you feel you’re an enabler.

Which do you want to be – the enabler or the enabled?

In your leadership development, you should realize that leaders must be the enablers.

When I was young, my father was an enabler. He would not do “things” for me. He would make me watch him do it, then expect me to copy him.

I learned everything I knew about automobiles from my dad by watching him. My grandfather worked for 40 plus years as an auto mechanic. My dad learned a few things about auto repair from him.

Since we didn’t grow up full of cash to spend, my dad did all the auto repairs he could with the car parked in front of the house. He would expect me to help. This included:

  • Getting the tools he needed
  • Getting him the supplies he needed
  • Watching him, so I could do it, too

Without him thinking about it, he was teaching me to be an enabler.

One Way for Your Leadership Development to Build Enablers

The leaders and leadership in any organization become most effective and productive by developing enablers. People who can get things done for themselves and show others how to do the same.

The enabled typically wait for others to tell them how to do things. Then they work on ways to get others to do their responsibilities for them. I’m sure you know the type.

It’s true everyone needs to be enabled. But only to the extent they learn something.

Strong leadership development requires you to know where to stop showing and where to begin expecting independent results from the team members. You as a leader must know when help is required beyond what you can teach team members without doing the tasks for them.

When you enable people by too often, you do them a big disfavoring. Instead of the enabled person learning to do it themselves, he or she learns how to get others to do it for them.

This saves the enabled time but costs the team or organization time. The person doing the task for them, have other responsibilities which get delayed. This is negative enabling. The enabled stays enabled and the enabler loses time trying be friendly.

Leadership development will necessitate you become a positive enabler.

To become the positive enabler – the leader – apply these principles:

  • Train your team. Every minute of focused training is worth the efficiency it gains for the future
  • Demonstrate tasks to your team.
  • Know when it’s time to “make” the team do it for themselves.

When you get the majority of your team wanting to be enablers, you have become a leader that’s mastered positive enabling.

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